National Night Out

Keeping children safe from crime.

Each year as summer comes to a close, August’s National Night Out celebrates local community efforts to stop crime and create positive change. Promoting an open, supportive relationship between concerned citizens and their local law enforcement officers, National Night Out is observed in all fifty states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and on military bases worldwide.

NNO was established in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada, and takes place on the first Tuesday of August - which falls on August 1 this year. In light of this upcoming event, here are a few crime-fighting tips to share with those you love.

School Safety

Young children spend most of their days in the classroom or traveling to and school. As such it’s important for parents to take time to go over some basic guiding school safety principles. While most schools are safe spaces, bullying can happen to anyone - tell your child to speak up if they witness bullying or if they become a victim themselves. Make sure they also understand the school;s safety protocols during emergencies, and teach them important phone numbers – yours, a grandparent's or another local relatives – to call in case they need immediate assistance during a school crisis. Map the route to school, either walking or driving, and advise them to avoid shortcuts.

Cyber Security

Children today are “digital natives”, accustomed to interacting with screens and engaging with other children via technology. Many parents are unaware of their child’s behavior online, but as the world accelerates into the digital fast lane, it’s critical to underscore the necessity of cyber safety. You can’t always be with your child when they’re perusing the web, but you can lay down a few fundamental good practices.

At home, set up safety blocks to keep inappropriate sites from popping up. Require passwords to specific websites, limit how much time your kids spend online and check in with them regularly to see what they're doing. The National Crime Prevention Council offers a bevy of resources to parents, so start with them to learn more about what you can do to keep your kids surfing safely.

Safe at Home

Safety lessons at home should also cover what to do during a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Practice drills with your kids, and encourage them to ask questions to ensure that everyone knows what to do, where to go and whom to call for help if something happens. Keep a list of important names and phone numbers that your kids can see or find easily in a crisis, and teach them the most important number – 911 – early. When you're at home, keep the doors and windows to the outside locked, but make sure that your kids know how to open them in an emergency.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than 40 percent of children are left alone at home on some occasions. If this is true for your kids, consider installing a basic Internet-enabled video camera that lets you check in on them. With a security monitoring app you can confirm remotely that they’re safe from crime, fire, or other disasters. Other parental monitoring apps also offer geolocation features, giving you an accurate picture of where your kids are at all times.

Safety on the Go

Even at a young age, kids need to know how to stay out of harm’s way when traveling on vacation, or even just to the local supermarket. According to Parents magazine, it's crucial to “have a plan, and emphasize to children to follow it in the event they get separated: At the beach, for example, tell your kid to find a lifeguard, then stay put.”

Children should be aware that unknown adults can be harmful, and it's okay to make a lot of noise or bite, scratch or kick any stranger who's trying to lure them away. Tell them to look for "safe" adults – a police officer, a sales clerk in a busy store or a mom with kids – if they need help while they're out. Make sure that they know their phone number and address and a copy written down. If you’re out with your child and they become lost, safety experts say you should only wait five to ten minutes before calling the police. A 2006 report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the first three hours are the most critical to locate a missing child.

National Night Out encourages people to stay sharp when it comes to personal safety, to connect with safety experts in their communities and to foster a spirit of neighborhood camaraderie. As a parent, you've got a lot on your plate, but you should always leave room for teaching your kids how to stay safe at home, online and out in the world.